Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Like you wouldn't just love to sit around discussing the area of a triangle with Wes." BSC FF #6: Stacey and the Boyfriend Trap (2000)

Aaaand the BSC enters the new millennium, with a plot full of ridiculousness.
Stacey's favorite teacher is quitting in the middle of the school year, and Stacey's planning a going away party. This drags various guys she's dated through the books back into her orbit: Pete and Sam, who both had him as a teacher; Robert, who's now good friends with Pete; and Wes the student teacher, who is interviewing for the teacher's job*. Meanwhile, both Ethan and Toby from Sea City will be in town for various reasons the same weekend as the party, AND Stacey's dealing with Jeremy related issues. She's jealous of the amount of time he's spending with Claudia. The two of them wind up breaking up partly because he has feelings for Claudia and partly because they really just don't have that much in common. And Stacey is okay with that.
*Yes, you and I both know Stacey never dated Wes. But Stacey doesn't seem to realize that.
Interesting Tidbits
I'm going to apologize in advance. I had this whole thing written and then...poof! Two thirds of it disappeared. So, since I have to reread most of the book, it will probably be shorter and less interesting than normal. Sorry.
Stacey is complimenting Samantha, and she says, "I was happy he'd found someone gorgeous and nice." Because looks definitely take priority over personality.
Stacey may be sophisticated, but not sophisticated enough to eat escargots. (Yes, she actually says eating escargots is sophisticated.)
Oh, and her first shot at a new year's resolution? To better color coordinate herself. Her second try is to be a better friend. Then she says that she's going to convince Claudia start talking to her again, because she's too proud to be the first one to talk to her. That's pretty funny in my mind.
This is weird: Stacey says she and Ethan are not old enough to drink coffee, yet Kristy was drinking mochaccinos five books ago. (These two have tea instead.)
Stacey's 'boys,' in their order of first mention: Jeremy, Ethan, Toby, Pete, Wes, Robert and Sam.
Why do I not remember that Toby and Alex are cousins? I really didn't recall that. I'm going to have to pull one of the Sea City books out and check that out.
Heh. Toby's email handle is tobythegreat. I'm really not surprised by that.
Every time Mr. Zizmore's name comes up in the book, I say it out loud and draw it out: Ziiizzzmooore. Try it; it's fun!
Jeremy seems needlessly jealous of Pete and Robert and everyone else. Yet he feels the need to defend himself for going to the mall with Claudia and Erica. (He says it was Erica's idea. Erica, who two books ago HATED the mall. Right.)
Mary Anne asks for help from Stacey and Kristy in decorating her bedroom in her new house. Both Stacey and Kristy seem shocked when they point out bedrooms they'd like to have and Mary Anne turns them down, because they're not her style. Have they not met her? (Bonus points for continuity, though: the room Stacey likes is navy and yellow and Mary Anne says she does like the colors. They're the colors she mentions liking back in #4, when she wants to redecorate her pink bedroom.)
The title quote is what Kristy says when she discovers Wes is applying for Mr. Ziiiiizzzzzzmoooooooore's teaching job. This is my new favorite sexual euphemism.
(Speaking of Wes, when he first mentions that he's applying for the job, Stacey's thrilled. Pete later mentions that he didn't think Wes was that good of a teacher. I can't decide if this is accurate about his teaching and Stacey was blind to it because of her crush, but I do remember Wes being a hot mess altogether.)
Ahh, Mary Anne. She says she likes being single because it means not having to think about what Logan wants or what he'd say about her plans or her outfit or whatever. Kristy says that sounds selfish. Stacey says (my paraphrase) that Mary Anne is such a doormat most of the time that she deserves to put herself first sometimes. MA seems shocked when Kristy and Stacey tell her she's one of the nicest people they know.
MA also says she feels like she's changing, after Kristy says that people don't really change. I know I've said it before, but I love the character development in Mary Anne in the FF series. Hell, in a couple of books, she's going to be getting grounded and sneaking out, rebelling against everything that's happened to her. She grows a spine and a voice, too.
Stoneybrook's Chinese takeout is called Wok 'N' Roll. Why am I not surprised by this?
I'm going to sum up a few thoughts I had about Stacey while reading this the first time. I'm routinely mean to her, and I know it. Stacey is probably my least favorite babysitter, probably for the same reason she was a lot of people's favorite sitter once upon a time. I didn't 'get' her sophistication or her boy-craziness. I used to want to be able to speak my mind, like Kristy, be creative, like Claudia, be an 'individual' like Dawn, and have a boyfriend, like Mary Anne. I never wanted to be Stacey. But I need to be fair about her, and to her. She actually attempts to keep her resolution, speaking to Claudia--even though Claudia is still mad at her--several times during the book. She actually acknowledges some of the flaws I perceive in her, even if nothing changes. (Like saying she knows she can be a snob in #2. She's actually very nice to Mary Anne in this book and compliments her bedroom pick, even if Stacey would never want a garden mural and a picket fence for a headboard. She says it's sweet, and that does NOT come across as condescending.) Yet, I will be a little mean to her. Blogging is not fun if you can't snark about the characters....
Speaking of, Stacey wonders if it's normal to have this many ex-boyfriends when you're thirteen. It is when you've been thirteen for a dozen years!
Brief mention of Stacey babysitting for the Hills. I'd almost forgotten about them!
How is it that most of Stacey's exes are not over her/keep raving about her/all want her time at the same time? 
By the way, the back mentions five exes. With Wes, we're at six. (Again, not an ex, but Stacey keeps treating him like one.)
Aww, Claudia and Stacey make up. Smiley face.
I do want to say, I like that they're playing up the differences between Claudia and Stacey, and letting them have friends outside of the BSC. (Last time Stacey tried that, she ended up quitting the club, remember?) I just realized that all of Stacey's boyfriends have either been her age (Robert, Pete, Jeremy) or older (Ethan, Toby and Sam are all in high school. And let's not mention Wes ever again. Except one more time at the end) while Claudia's one long-term boyfriend up to now was younger and maybe gay. (Okay, I forgot Mark. He was 13, but in a lower grade. And I didn't like him, so he doesn't count.) It's nice for Stacey to be able to hang with Rachel, whose urban and 'sophisticated' like she is, while Claudia can hang out with Erica, who's artsy and creative like she is.
Finally, I'm starting to see what Claudia and company didn't like about Rachel when she was younger. Now that Stacey is friends with Claudia again, Rachel keeps trying to put doubt into her head about what Jeremy's relationship is with Claudia. I could see Kristy and Claudia hating someone for virtually no reason, but Mary Anne? Not so much. Rachel's reputation must have been earned.
Pete says he can't talk in public. Wait, what? He's eighth grade president and gave speeches for that. He also emceed awards night in M#4, among other things. It's just an excuse for Stacey to give the speech for Mr. Ziiiiiiiiiiiiiizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzmmoooooooooooooooooooooooooooore.
Wacky hijinks ensue when both Toby and Ethan have to hang out with Stacey during the same time she's supposed to be helping decorate for the surprise party. Stacey asks her mother to chat with them for a minute while she gets ready. Stacey's mom: "I don't think they'll be thrilled to hang out with me." Stacey: "Sure they will. You can be very entertaining." My mind when really dirty right then.
So Stacey and Jeremy break up, and she says she's going to make an effort to not have her life revolve around boys. Yet she gets all excited at the thought of hanging out with Ethan more and knowledge that Wes got Mr. Z's teaching job, so that seems to be working out pretty poorly for her.
Stacey: black velvet overalls, long sleeved white shirt, headband with peace signs, ankle high boots; blue sweater and jeans
Next: I'm taking a break for NaNoWriMo (my first shot--not sure how well I'll do) but I'll be back in December with #7

"What does drool have to do with anything?" BSC FF #5: Kristy Power! (1999)

Don't forget the exclamation point. It's exciting!
A substitute English teacher assigns a biography of a classmate to Kristy and company. Kristy is paired with Cary Retlin, who isn't exactly making life easy for her, by giving vague answers and refusing to discuss certain topics. Kristy decides to check out Cary's room and winds up reading his diary, which contains information on a secret that Kristy had been wondering about. Kristy later blurts the information out loud, causing Cary to get horribly upset. Later she finds out it was actually a story he was writing--first person from a character--and he's upset that she was snooping in his private things, not that she knows the 'truth' about him.
Meanwhile, some parents are up in arms over a reading list the same teacher gave the students. The same woman who was protesting at the library in mystery #13 has a daughter in Kristy's class and complains that some of the books are inappropriate.
Interesting Tidbits
Kristy starts the story by explaining that she and Cary are archenemies. The examples that she uses, though...the first two are superheroes (Batman, Superman) which, if any BSC member was going to be into comics and superheroes, it should be Kristy. Then she mentions Men in Black, which just seems wrong. Any reference to movies that came out when I was in high school should not ever make its way into the BSC.
"I used to picture millionaires in top hats and tails. Now I know they wear sweatsuits." I just can't picture Watson in a sweatsuit, and I can't explain why. I still don't have a clear picture of him (and neither did the ghostwriters and illustrators...that's why he's skinny in some books and fat in others), but whenever I think of him, I see him in a button down shirt. Even if I think of him in a sweatshirt, he's that guy who has the collar of his button down shirt peeking out from under the sweatshirt.
Real books: The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace. The latter one disturbed the hell out of me the first time I read it.
Other pairs for biography writing: Alan and Cokie (heh), Claudia and Jeremy (of course), and Rachel and Logan. The teacher claims he pulled names out of a hat, but does anyone actually believe that?
Cary asks for a truce and mentions the events of #123. Kristy gets pissy when he says she annoys him. She's like, how could I possibly annoy him? And I laugh and laugh and laugh. (For the record, I totally get why some people ship these two.)
More real books: The Outsiders and The Red Pony. The assignment is to choose a book that speaks to you and explain how it moved you. I never really liked Catcher, and as I said, Peace disturbed me. I've never read Pony, but I borrowed The Outsiders from the library so many times that I came home from school one day and there was a copy of it on my bed. I still have that copy, twenty two years later, and it's very well read.
Cary Retlin must know my husband. Compare these questions:
Me: What are you up to today?
Hubby: Five-seven.
Kristy: Where were you born?
Cary: In a hospital.
Is this a guy thing, or a smartass thing? Or is that the same thing? (In the next chapter, Kristy and Cary discuss 'normal' topics like politics and basketball, and Kristy says it feels weird...because nothing is ever normal with Cary.)
Interviewing little siblings seems like a good idea, until you think about the kinds of things they would say. Cary's youngest brother Stieg just wants to reveal every 'crime' Cary has ever committed.
Cary is a big fan of surrealist art and M.C. Escher.
Cary's big secret? His journal entry makes it sound like he was expelled from his last school for hacking the school computer. This being Cary, though, you can never be sure.
Kristy's actually waxing nostalgic about the bulletin boards, lockers and cafeteria in SMS, wondering how she'd feel if she never saw it again. My first thought was...well, you'd move on to a new school, with new bulletin boards, lockers and--if you're lucky--maybe even a cafeteria. But I sort of like the idea that Kristy would cling to stuff like that, even if she says her friends would think she was crazy if she said it out loud.
When Kristy's class was all griping over the fact that 'Ted', the sub, was being investigated for the book list he provided the students, I had one thought: Aren't teachers supposed to have their book choices approved? Or choose from an already-approved list? And then Mr. Taylor (the principal, remember?) says that half of the problem was that Ted didn't have the book list approved. (To be fair, every book I've heard mentioned so far is one that is often read in school, but they're also all on the challenged books list.)
More challenged books (not from Ted's list this time): To Kill a Mockingbird, A Light in the Attic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and In the Night Kitchen.
"Sometimes you have to be loud to defend what you believe in." --Elizabeth Brewer. So that's where Kristy gets it from!
The title quote is Kristy's reaction to Cary's first questions to Sam. He then promptly kicks her out of the interview.
Cary learns all about 'the spaghetti incident', which is so bad that Kristy responds more strongly to that than to Cary knowing she once peed on Santa's lap. I know you're supposed to wonder...and wonder...and wonder what this spaghetti incident is, but I can't think of anything spaghetti-related that could be worse than peeing on Santa.
Uh-oh. Kristy says she now finds Cary sort of interesting. Next thing you know, she might actually like him!
The poor sub who takes over for Ted has her hands full. The class is all up in arms--even Merrie, whose mother started all of this. They refuse to do the sub's assignment, and instead, they just want to talk the situation over. But she winds up being pretty cool, and letting them map out a plan of what they're going to do and how they're going to do it.
I remember having a manager once who was talking about his son's fourth grade reading assignment. He'd been assigned to read Shiloh, a book I read at that age and LOVED. As soon as dad found out there were curse words in the book, he complained to the teacher. Teacher gladly found son another book to read, but dad tried to convince teacher to take the book off the shelves entirely, and was telling me the story because he was OUTRAGED that she wouldn't do that. I remember saying, "Look, my parents didn't let me swear when I was ten either. And me reading that book didn't change anything. But I knew that shit was a bad word, and the fact that the dog owner named one of his dogs that solidified for me that he was a bad man who didn't treat his animals right." (We won't discuss that Scout is often called Scouty Shithead these days. It's a term of endearment.) He honestly didn't see the harm in dictating what other people's kids were allowed to read, simply because it offended him.
To update on the other dangling plots, Claudia and Stacey have an argument over Jeremy, while Mary Anne is upset over whether or not Kristy will invite Logan to her Christmas party. (She tries to be adult about it, and says that Logan can come...but do you don't think he'll bring a date, do you?)
Haha! During Ted's speech at his hearing, various protestors keep shouting. My favorite is when a woman yells "Save our children!" while he's explaining that he was just trying to give the students a choice. The parents are acting way more immature than the children. Mr. Taylor has to keep glaring at the protestors and threatening them.
Another book: Homecoming. I'm trying to remember that one. Is it a Gary Paulson (sp?) I'll have to look it up. It's the one Kristy winds up reading. (It's actually Cynthia Voigt. I never read that one, although I did read Dicey's Song, with the same characters.)
Cary Retlin: Portrait of a Psychopath--what Kristy calls her biography when she realizes that Cary led her to believe she was reading his journal. She's mad at him, even though she knows she shouldn't have been snooping in the first place, so mad that she actually calls him a booger-head. (She writes several pages on how horrible Cary is, then crumples it up and starts over. With a less silly title.)
Nannie asks Kristy if Cary is her love interest...while waggling her eyebrows. I suddenly love Nannie.
Kristy's having a Christmas party, which she's planning like it's the most important event in history. Claudia: Is Prince William coming? (No, but Mal and Dawn are home for Christmas.)
Ooh, foreshadowing a potential Stacey-Jeremy breakup. (I haven't read the next two books. I just know Stacey is single after that.)
Kristy's one question for Cary that she never gets answered? Why his family left Illinois. (My guess? His dad got a new job.) Cary says that he was accused of witchcraft, so his family left in the middle of the night. And that's how Kristy knows things are right between her and Cary once again.
Kristy: dark green corduroys, red turtleneck
Stacey: red woolen miniskirt and mini jacket
Claudia: red and white striped stockings, white dress with red polka dots, tree earrings
Mary Anne: navy velvet dress
Dawn: white denim miniskirt, green silk blouse
Ted: red corduroy pants, red flannel shirt, red polar fleece Santa-esque hat
Next: #6

"His teeth were very white. Like vanilla ice cream." BSC FF #4: Claudia and the Friendship Feud (1999)

Claudia and Stacey are still fighting, avoiding spending time together, and generally making BSC meetings unpleasant. After a sitting job for the Pikes with Erica Blumberg, Claudia discovers she actually likes spending time with her. The two of them become friends, but Claudia keeps trying to mold Erica to be more like Stacey instead of accepting her for who she is. The situation comes to a head when Claudia convinces Erica to go shopping with her--something Erica doesn't enjoy--and then calls her Stacey. She calls Claudia on using her as a Stacey substitute, saying she enjoys her company but isn't--and doesn't want to be--Stacey. 
Meanwhile, Jeremy has been trying to rekindle a friendship with Claudia, who is still harboring feelings for him. The Pike kids hatch a plan to force Stacey and Claudia to talk--it's a lot simpler and a lot less BSC than most of the Pikes' plots--and the two of them wind up talking. Claudia realizes she's not ready to go back to the way things were with Claudia, but she apologizes to Erica, realizing that she was pretty much a jerk to her.
Interesting Tidbits
The story starts with Claud and Mary Anne going to the movies and spotting Stacey and Jeremy. Claudia's paying more attention to them than to the previews until Mary Anne dangles some Milk Duds in her face. Normally, I'd shake my head at Mary Anne for trying to fix a problem with candy, but this IS Claudia. It's a very appropriate distraction in that case.
At this point, Claudia's still hurt over Stacey betraying her to go out with Jeremy, but acknowledges both that she said some things to Stacey she didn't mean, and that she shouldn't have told Jeremy about Ethan.
Since when does Vanessa Pike take ballet? She doesn't seem the type. Margo or Claire...sure. Not Vanessa.
Have I mentioned I love when Janine tries to be funny? Well, I do. Claudia wears braids like Mary Anne used to when she was younger, because she read that they were coming back into style. Janine greets her by calling her Pippi Longstocking--and later, "Pippi gone hippie." (Mrs. Kishi helps Claudia out by pointing out how determined, spirited and motivated Pippi was. Then tells her not to trip on her shoes.)
Claudia is reading Wuthering Heights in class. It's odd how these books mix real middle school reading (Newbery Award winners) with the sort of things I read in high school. This one was something I read for AP English. My senior year.
Claudia calls Stacey her 'best friend for life,' and I laugh. Not just because the two of them aren't talking--even if I hadn't read the rest of the series, I would have known they'd be friends again by the end--but because I called them BFFs in my last entry. A former coworker of mine used to call people 'BFF for life,' and that was not a compliment. The woman whose slack I used to have to pick up when she'd call off nearly every shift at the last possible second was my BFF for life according to him.
Why does Mr. Kishi ring the doorbell at his own house?
Conveniently, Peaches has a story just like Claudia's, about fighting with her best friend over a boy. Peaches' story has a happy ending, of course, because the fight leads to her meeting Russ, her hubby. (This is actually a decent piece of foreshadowing on the Alan/Claudia relationship.) But the point she's really making is that real friendships can withstand fights, no matter how bad they may seem at the time.
The title quote refers to Jeremy. Maybe it's because my parents always bought French vanilla, but I've never thought of vanilla ice cream as being that white.
Since when does SMS have a salad bar option?
I love how the guy that Erica calls a geek has a geeky name. Back in the day, they would always refer to that kid Alexander (Kurtzman, I think) who carried a briefcase. I think AMM thought Alexander was a geeky name, but then when it came back into fashion, she found an even geekier name: Wellner Wallace.
"It looks like you did your hair in the dark." I love you, Janine.
Claudia said she didn't enjoy going to the mall until she met Stacey. How did she get her 'awesome' clothes from the first few books then, like her clock tights? And her sheep barrettes?
I like Erica. She says she doesn't want to go to Macy's because there are too many people there and it makes her nauseous. It's a view that you don't get in the BSC--even Kristy doesn't mind going to the mall under certain circumstances. I'm one of those people who walks into the mall with a certain purpose in mind, a map of where I'm going in my head, and a timeline to get the hell out of there.
"You can make a disco turkey." Erica's suggestion for Claudia's Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Erica makes an Abby-worthy cheese pun. Twice.
Claudia puts a Wee Sing video in for Lynn to watch. Lynn, who is like six months old. Not to mention the fact that I used to LOVE Wee Sing.
"Never eat Oreo creme filling before bed." That's just plain good advice, no matter how delicious the creme is.
Now Claudia is reading A Tale of Two Cities. LOVED that one... read it Freshman year. Of course, it helped having a very good (but very scary) teacher. (There used to be a Facebook group called Mr. Butler is a Scary Mo-fo. I joined it.)
Stacey tells Claudia she forgives her for telling Jeremy about Ethan. She seems to think that will solve anything...despite not apologizing for her own missteps.
Molly, Peaches' old friend, has a glamorous life as a 'famous photographer,' and Peaches is jealous of that experience. Molly is, of course, equally jealous of the fact that Peaches has a family and roots that she doesn't have.
This is nice: Claudia realizes how much she needs to apologize to Erica, for forcing her to go shopping and, worse, talking about Stacey the whole time and even calling her Stace at one point. When she does apologize, Erica laughs and says she's already forgiven her. She then admits she likes Claudia a lot and is jealous of the pull Stacey has on her.
Still no resolution to the Stacey-Claudia feud. I really forgot how long they dragged that story out.
Claudia: red woolen sweater, navy blue skirt with flowers embroidered at the bottom, platform loafers, braids (This is SO Mary Anne, circa 1986! Except for the platforms on the loafers); blue angora sweater, hair in small braids all over her head; plaid shirt, brown bell bottoms, maroon sneakers
Lynn: blue romper covered in stars
Jeremy: black denim jacket, painter pants, Doc Martens
Next: #5 and a heavy--and welcomed--dose of Cary Retlin

"It's not my fault you threw food at me!"BSC FF #2: Stacey vs. Claudia (1999)

Two new kids have started eighth grade with our heroines. Jeremy just moved to town and he gets both Stacey and Claudia's attention. Since Stacey is still dating Ethan, she encourages Claudia to date him. But after Ethan breaks up with her, Stacey goes after Jeremy behind Claudia's back. When Jeremy prefers Stacey to Claudia, the two of them get into a giant fight, which isn't resolved in this book. (Aah, realism!)
Meanwhile, Rachel just moved back to Stoneybrook after three years in London. Kristy, Claudia and Mary Anne didn't like Rachel when she was young, but Stacey tries not to let that cloud her judgement.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover of my copy of the book claims there's a bumper sticker inside. My first instinct was to feel ripped off, because the bumper sticker was gone (just like there was clearly something that had been ripped out of my copy of #1.) But now that I have a brand new car, I can't help but wonder...why does a 10 year old reading this book need a bumper sticker? It's not like they have a bumper to put it on.
In case there was any confusion as to who was narrating the story (and there is--I keep trying to call the book Claudia vs. Stacey), the first sentence of the book is Stacey's mom calling her to the phone.
This made me laugh. Stacey realizes she's spotted a new boy, because she knows all the eighth graders and recognizes all the seventh and sixth graders. just started back up for the year. I know it is almost literally the seventeenth time she's been in eighth grade, but each new year, there are new kids in the building. It shouldn't be a surprise to see an unfamiliar face.
There's a whole conversation between Stacey and Mary Anne about whether it's normal to notice cute boys when you have a boyfriend. They kept saying Logan and Ethan, which sounded like brothers. They're both those two syllable names ending with N that a book I own calls bell tones.
Kristy's description of Rachel: "She's like Lucy Van Pelt, Helga Patacki, and Angelica Pickles all rolled into one." I had to Google the middle one, despite the fact that I've seen a few episodes of Hey Arnold! Those later two characters seem too...modern...for the BSC. Anything that wouldn't have aired on Nick at Nite in the 80s seems too modern for the BSC.
Mary Anne says she's feeling uneasy and irritable in a way she can't explain, and it's more than just being in a new house. I can see her suddenly seeing her own mortality, along with other things. I love this development in Mary Anne, because it's something a lot of us can relate to.
Stacey's English class is reading The Midwife's Apprentice.
If Rachel just moved back after three years living in London, she would almost definitely have a British accent. She later says that she didn't live there long enough to pick up an accent, but I disagree. My parents didn't have accents after two years, but my sister and I did--strong ones. They left just as quickly as we picked them up, after a matter of months.
Claudia writes Stacey a note. There are some spelling mistakes, but they're all logical ones: Jermy, loker, purfect, cant, tho, wat (I know a grown woman who spells what that way every single time she writes. It's frustrating!). She also uses write for right and to for too. The best part is that her spelling irritates Stacey, because she's jealous of Claudia and Jeremy.
After Jeremy asks her out, Stacey asks her mom what to do. And Stacey's mom refuses to tell her what to do or even give her an opinion, saying that she doesn't know how to answer that. It's probably true, but if that were <I>my</i> daughter asking for it, I would have told her that there might not be a 'right' answer, or at least not one that everyone involved would like.
Stacey goes out for a jog. I don't think we've ever seen her do that before, but it's nice to see a non-jock character running for health, exercise and to clear her head.
Okay, I have to admit that there's a reason I never read this one before. I had read #4, and I'd seen this all from Claudia's point of view. I had a feeling I wouldn't like this book--or more specifically, Stacey. And I've been trying really hard to not let that cloud my judgment here. But while I give Stacey credit for just biting the bullet and telling Claudia the truth, that Jeremy sees her as a friend and had asked Stacey out, I cringed while she was talking to Claudia. This was Stacey's logic: Jeremy doesn't like you the way you like him. Therefore, you shouldn't mind if I go out with him! It's very teenagery, and not at all empathetic (how would Stacey feel if Claudia said that to her?!?) 
To be fair, Claudia is very melodramatic about the scenario ("Who cares about that [Kristy's idea of weekend scheduling] when everything in my life is falling apart?") but afterward, Stacey wants to know why Claudia didn't care about her feelings as much as she cared about Claudia's. WHAT?!? Yes, she started off trying to stay away from Jeremy, but that was when a) she had her own boyfriend and b) she didn't know Jeremy liked her instead of Claudia. Once she find out Jeremy prefers her, she drops most of the concern about Claudia. Otherwise, she'd have told Jeremy to wait until Claudia was over the rejection for the two of them to go out.
The title quote occurs during Stacey and Claudia's first confrontation about Jeremy. Claudia counters by saying nothing is ever Stacey's fault in Stacey's mind...which is at least a little bit true. She does consider how much of this is her fault, several times, but not enough to try to declare a truce. Or give up Jeremy.
I should definitely be playing the second half of the season 4 of Daria while reading this. ("I kissed my best friend's boyfriend." "I'm sure it was just a one time--" "Twice.")
The plot 'twists' are all very realistic for middle school kids. Stacey keeps getting mad at Claudia for not calling her and trying to patch things up, but Claudia is obviously still very angry. Ethan had suggested that he and Stacey 'cool things' but obviously didn't intend to end their relationship, as he keeps calling her. Stacey, on the other hand, sees that as breaking up and refuses to take his calls. She had mentioned all of this to Claudia, who...tells Jeremy Stacey has a boyfriend in New York and that they're on a Ross-and-Rachel 'break' but Claud's certain they'll get back together. Jeremy is understandably confused about Stacey afterward, but doesn't stop to consider why Claudia felt the need to share that with him.
Stacey mentions babysitting for the Rodowskys, but we don't get to hear about the job because it's not salient to the plot. 
Ha! Stacey calls Claudia brainless because she can't spell and was held back a grade. Claudia counters by saying that Stacey's a snob and thinks she's better than everyone because she's from NYC. Isn't that what a lot of readers have been saying about the characters for years?
"I can't believe the two of you let a boy come between you." Kristy, I can't believe that this is the first time it's happened. I know lots of BFFs who let boys come between them. (Or a girl, in the case of a couple boys my sister dated in high school.)
I'm so mature. Ethan shows up just before Stacey's date with Jeremy, freaking her out. She tells him he's going on a date (or rather, he asks and she admits it), so when the doorbell rings, she shoves him out of sight to answer it. It turns out to be Rachel, who had helped Stacey prepare for her date, bringing over some earrings for Stacey to borrow. Ethan sees her and calms down, because he thought he was going to be meeting her date. Well, my brain went a different direction: What if Rachel were Stacey's date? That would be an interesting way of coming out....
In the end, Stacey accepts the way things are currently with Claudia, but hopes they'll improve with time. She also acknowledges the fact that she sometimes IS a snob about being from New York, and says she'll try to curb that. Once again, a hard lesson to learn.
Claudia: tie-dyed jumper, pink t-shirt, black and yellow tights, vinyl ankle boots
Rachel: French braid, short denim skirt, yellow sweater
Stacey: blue thermal shirt with buttons down the front, jeans, boots, blue and silver dangly earrings, French braid
Next: Let's see the other side of this story with #4

"It could star in a horror movie." BSC FF#1: Kristy's Big News (1999)

Kristy's father Patrick calls from California, inviting Charlie, Sam, and Kristy to his wedding. Charlie is reluctant to go, but the three of them head to Sausalito anyway. Sam tries to play peacekeeper while Kristy grows close to her new stepmother, Zoey. Charlie, meanwhile, barely holds back anger and frustration. Just before the wedding, Patrick accuses Charlie of being negative and a bad son, because Charlie--among other valid points--mentions the fact that Patrick barely acknowledges David Michael's existence. Kristy winds up telling Patrick off, pointing out how much Charlie has sacrificed because Patrick walked out of their lives. Sam helps Charlie change his perspective enough to enjoy himself at the nuptials.
Interesting Tidbits
Oh look. The ghost of Ben Brewer. I really hope that's the last time that ever gets mentioned.
There's a level of realism in the various Thomas kids' responses to hearing that their father is getting married. Charlie is understandably angry at his father for trying to barge back into their lives, while David Michael is upset because his father didn't even ask for/about him. Sam and Kristy sort of reluctantly agree to go, but neither seems very enthusiastic.
Kristy's breakfast? Wheaties mixed with Rice Krispies. I've never considered mixing cereal in one bowl. Maybe that makes me weird?
I like how the characters and backstory are all introduced organically in these books, much like in the early BSC books. Kristy decides to go see Mary Anne, so there's a whole discussion on the Richard-Sharon marriage, the Dawn-moving-away business, and the fire. Claudia and Stacey aren't mentioned until they show up in the story later, for a BSC meeting.
Oh, and this is the best part: We don't see the BSC meeting. We don't get to hear the history of the BSC, or even much about Stacey and Claudia.
Dinner at the Thomas-Brewer house? Gnocchi with marinara sauce. Or, as Karen says, potato lumps with tomatoes.
This is pretty cruel, though. Charlie is completely set against going to California to stay with the father who abandoned him. He's told it's his choice initially, and Charlie's old enough--and usually described as mature enough--to make those types of decisions. But then Elizabeth tells him that if he doesn't go, then neither can Sam and Kristy--who both were 'meh' about the wedding but actually wanted to see their father. It doesn't sound like a bad parenting choice on one level, and I think that's the level it's intended to be seen on: among other things, Kristy points out how unfair it is for her and Sam to have to explain to their father why Charlie didn't attend. But it's essentially emotional blackmail. Elizabeth knows how much Sam and Kristy want to go, even if they don't say so, and so does Charlie. She also knows how responsible Charlie's always felt--been made to feel--for his younger siblings. There's only one possible ending to that scenario, and it's not really fair. Charlie should be allowed to say, "No--I'm angry at my father and not ready to play nice with him. Maybe someday. But not now."
For Charlie's eleventh birthday, he's given a baseball glove and the freedom to not babysit Sam and Kristy one day a week, because Sam will watch Kristy. He says "I'm almost ten," but that doesn't seem accurate. Of course, virtually no character in this series had an actual birthday. They just were mentioned as one age when they were introduced and then, several books later, were all a year older. So for all we know, there's actually a fifteen month gap between Sam and Charlie, and they were just frozen in age in those three months where they were two years apart in age. Later, Patrick makes a comment that makes the same thing more plausible.
Another thing I like: Kristy rarely mentions her father, except to say she's angry at him. She sees him once in a super special, and again in her autobiography, but she never really learns much about him either of those times. So in her mind, he's still as he was seven years earlier. She imagines him living in a small house, with a beat up car, because he never made much money while married to her mother, and she thinks little else could have changed about him. So she's shocked when he has a really nice car and a huge, gorgeous house (in a part of the country that requires beau coup bucks...)
I must say, I like that Kristy, rather than saying, "my father" or "Dad", calls him by his first name, Patrick. If Watson's been more of a father to her, and she calls him by his first name, it would follow that she'd do the same for the father who wasn't there for her.
Patrick and Zoey's house doesn't meet Kristy's expectations, and not just because it's larger than she thought. She seems surprised that Patrick would be able to take enough care to keep plants alive. But to the adult eye, it's quickly obvious that Zoey is the one who cares for the plants. Zoey's study is neat and orderly; Patrick's is messy, with papers everywhere and stacks of books rather than a bookcase full.
This made me laugh: Kristy says that, among other things, Zoey is wearing a chemise and espadrilles. Then, two paragraphs later, she says that she doesn't know what a slip dress with a simple line is. I barely know what chemises and espadrilles are, but I can very clearly picture a slip dress with a simple line.
Kristy apparently drinks mochaccinos. That just sounds...wrong.
The title quote is Charlie's take on the horrific tuxedos Patrick and Sam picked out. Kristy say they are "baby puke yellow."
I like the development of Sam in this book. He's always been a practical joker and a goof; in several books, Stacey is basically more mature than he is. But, he's trying to play peacemaker in this book. He's not only trying to smooth things over between Patrick and Charlie, but also between Patrick and Zoey when Patrick starts acting juvenile.
Kristy wants to wear a tuxedo one day. I guess she's forgotten that Claudia's already done that. I want to say Stacey has, too.
I love the self-awareness. Kristy feels bad because of how much she likes Zoey. I can see why; she and Zoey have a lot in common. They're both organized go-getters who are more functional than decorative in fashion and sense. (Kristy figures this out in the last chapter.) But this makes her feel guilty because she liked Zoey instantly while she took a long time to warm to Watson, who has been the father figure of her life. I can understand that, too: not only had she been without a father for more than six years at that point, but Watson was so different from her bio dad. Then Kristy realizes that she actually likes Zoey better than Patrick, too. Again, completely understandable. Patrick abandoned her and has been a very negative presence in her life by not being there and not keeping basic parenting promises. Yet Zoey is a very maternal figure without trying to replace Elizabeth. *I* like her better than Patrick.
To be fair, the readers are obviously not supposed to like Patrick. He's written as being a very unlikeable guy: charming on the surface, but completely clueless and thoughtless. Even though Charlie is clearly uncomfortable with him and with being at the wedding, Patrick either can't tell or doesn't want to acknowledge that.
Patrick has a brother, Ray. I have to assume that is Robin's father.
OO-ooh. Kristy sees Sam's attempts to smooth things over as more of a way of buttering Patrick up, and then says Sam got that trait from Patrick. I never thought of it that way, but Sam's sense of humor, practical joking is similar to the way Patrick winks at Kristy all the time when he's riling Zoey up.
More Sam development: he gets angry at Charlie for not making any effort. Sam says that, even though he's angry, he's trying to forgive because that's his father and this is a chance they didn't think they'd have.
Sam and Charlie remind me, in a way, of Teah and Tessie. Their parents split when they were preteens, and their father made almost no effort to be involved in their lives after that, to the point where he has barely met Teah's kids, who are now nine and six. Teah tries to reach out to him and seek his approval at every available opportunity, while Tessie won't bother. She's mostly angry, despite her claims to the contrary.
Sam the profound: "But get this point: Patrick's never going to live up to our expectations of him, not the ones we had when we were children." He is a lot more mature in that moment than he's usually given credit for. I don't remember agreeing so much with Sam the first time I read this book....
I like that Zoey has no illusions about who Patrick is or what he's done. She's also smart enough to praise Elizabeth for raising such great kids on her own. Not only would that be true, but it's good of her to speak well about Kristy's mother to Kristy.
And after the wedding, Kristy's mother says she wishes Patrick and Zoey well, without any sense of sarcasm or anything.
Mary Anne points out that Patrick hasn't aged any since she saw him last, and Kristy notes he hasn't changed in other ways, either. I like that the girls all agree that's sad and feel sorry for him because of it. It leads Kristy to the revelation that just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to like them. And that's a really hard lesson to learn.
Kristy: jeans and a long sleeved shirt, tucked in; burgundy velvety dress with short sleeves; khakis and nice shirt; cut offs and Cynthia Cooper WNBA shirt
Zoey: baggy khaki pants, green crocheted vest, yellow and blue striped cotton chemise, espadrilles with ribbons, engagement ring with an emerald on a chain; green wedding dress with high neck, tight sleeves and pearl buttons
Mona, Zoey's ex-stepmother: pink pantsuit and blue scarf
Maude, Zoey's current stepmother: pink and yellow pantsuit
Claudia: cut off jean shorts over bicycle shorts, suspenders, Jackson Pollack-style splattered t-shirt
Mary Anne: khakis and polo
Stacey: blue ribbed sleeveless shirt, linen overall shorts
That's a whole lot of outfits for a Kristy book.
Next: #2 I hope there is cattiness of the highest order!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Maybe he's going through that male midlife crisis thing really, really early." Babysitters Club Friends Forever Super Special #1: Everything Changes (1999)

Did you guys miss me? I had the previous entries all written back in August and promised myself I'd publish them all. And then...I forgot! I took a month off and didn't think BSC at all. I was a little too busy....

Me and the new hubby with my niece, the Nugget
This book is written all in diary entries, letters and emails. Like an original-series super special, the chapters alternate, this time between the four original BSC members. 
For the month of June, the four girls (plus Abby) are all supposed to be out of town. Kristy, Abby and Mary Anne are to be CITs at Camp Mohawk, while Stacey is with her dad in NYC and Claudia's family is on a small island off the coast of Maine. A variety of different plots overlap. Among other things, Logan, Shannon, Abby and Jessi all drop out of the club for personal reasons, leaving just these four.
Kristy: Goes to camp and enjoys spending time with Abby at first. Freaks out repeatedly about people dropping out of the club.
Mary Anne: Decides not to go to camp while everything is up in the air. Worries about Logan, who is smothering her, and whether her dad will take the job in Philly (spoiler alert--he doesn't.)
Claudia: The Kishis are on an island with no telephone or television, but everyone is sneaking technology time when the others aren't looking. She and Janine bond over it a little and she finds artist inspiration. And meditates.
Stacey: Fights with her dad about Ethan and about him wanting to move his girlfriend in. At the same time, they each find the other's interests boring and wind up.
Interesting tidbits
The cover. Three out of four of these girls look pretty much the way I'd expect them to look in 1999.

Kristy writes like she's in a hurry. She skips the 'I' or 'it' at the beginning of any sentence that would normally start with one: Am inspired by Mary Anne and all she's been through. Will be so great to go to camp again. She also refers to her friends in short hand. MA. A. St. Cl.
Mal is apparently spending the summer writing a book. It's about a fifteen year old selectively mute boy, and his best friend who just wants more out of her life than she's currently getting. Oh wait. No, that's my 'book.'
Also, Kristy mentions not having spoken to Shannon for a while. That's interesting to me. I mean, they don't have much in common; I've always thought that Shannon would be better friends with Stacey, or even Cokie and her friends.
Claudia writing letters equals...lots of Claudia spelling! Thier, vacasion, dood (dude), dont, barbados, speling, coste (coast), peopel, belive, poepal (people...she has real trouble with that one), sumer, minniture, defanitely, worthwile, freinds, bordom, electrisity, computter, metropolitin, musum, postcad, detale. She also uses its for it's, exited for excited, cost for coast, and too for to. There may have been more, but it was three whole pages of Claudia spelling--luckily not in her handwriting--and some of them washed right past me.
Two most interesting things from the first Claudia chapter. She wants Stacey to go to the top of the World Trade Center for her. This was 1999, so okay on that one. Second, she says she's never been stranded on an island before. But she has. And a lot less civilized one at that. I don't know how she could forget that one!
Kristy wonders if Abby will survive camp because she's freaking out over the packing list ("Why do we need bug spray?"), but shouldn't she be more concerned with the fact that Abby is allergic to everything? Camp=woods=pollen=allergy-riffic.
Mary Anne is feeling 'cross' about the Logan situation. How very British of her.
Obviously, Jessi drops out of the BSC because of ballet. This is the part that gets me, though. Suddenly, a ballet school on par with the one she almost went to in NYC is opening in Stamford. RIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT. I know if I were about to open a world-class dance school, a small town in Connecticut would be my first choice, too.
More Claudia spelling. Mornig, Mary Ann, shes, Main (Maine), yisterday, actualy, realy, didnt, contane, havent, restrants, fetures, shoping, youve, butons, perchases, souvenears, disconts, purchise. She usues bake for back, hear for here, grate for great, are for our, diner for dinner, Been for Bean (the LL kind), pares for pairs, role for roll and your for you're. The most interesting thing is how she writes the Main (heh) town names: Free Port and Port Land instead of as single words. She actually gets Freeport right a few times and writes it as freeport once. Oh, and you guys know I love it when Claudia tries to spell a word a couple of times and then just gives up. She's done that a couple times so far, with fettuccine (to be fair, I tried to spell it fetachini, so I sympathize) and brochure.
Oh, and Claudia is obsessed with detailing how many lobster foods she eats. Two days into the trip and she's eaten two lobster meals, one of them at McDonalds. (I can confirm that in the 90s, you could get lobster rolls in New England McDonalds. I was actually eating them in Rhode Island, so you'd think Claudia would have been less surprised.)
Ooh, Stacey name-drops Chelsea Clinton, who would have been 19 at the time the book was written. (She's one year older than I am, to the day.) It makes me wonder whether this Cowgirl Hall of Fame is a real place, like how Stacey and Claudia are obsessed with the Hard Rock Cafe. It is! And, Google confirms that Chelsea Clinton did actually have her birthday party there 'many moons ago.'
Stacey's so bored in NYC that she's needlepointing. I can't see it. Maybe she should just go out and make some non-Ethan friends.
Ha! Kristy is the only Thomas-Brewer kid going to camp this summer, so Karen and David Michael keep saying she's spoiled. It's actually quite realistic, but more annoying that Kristy usually finds them.
Abby and Kristy's campers: Marcia (mar-see-ah), Kate, Harmoni, Rachel, Jenna, and LaVonne. The book is dedicated to AMM's new goddaughter, Harmoni, so that's where that name came from. The girls are all listed with last names as well, which makes me think they were all named after someone. But what I find most interesting is that, last time camp was mentioned, every one of the CITs (except, I think, Dawn), had at least one girl from Stoneybrook in their cabin. I'm mentally scanning them in my mind; Stacey had Karen; Mary Anne, Margo and Nancy; Claudia, Vanessa and Haley. Kristy had eight year olds that time as well, and she had Charlotte and Becca in her cabin. This time, not a single name is a familiar one.
I'd forgotten how much foreshadowing of the Mary Anne-Logan break up there was in this book. I know FF#1 is mostly in California, but I haven't read #2 yet. I bet it's the same way.
Claudia: expeted, beleve, theres, isnt, dont, gidebooks, geting, fery, becuase, lot's, finaly, strate, befor, wethered, shingels, yeard (yard), prety, steped, litle, waht, scatered, minature, docter, grocerys, supplis, listan, exitment. She also uses form for from, trials for trails, and hole for whole.
Claudia's reaction to the lack of things to do on her island? "Maybe I'll go start a fight over what to listan [sic] to on the radio." I suddenly love her.
Ethan refers to the couches in shopping centers as 'Guy Couches': they are where the men who humor the women in their lives by shopping with them plop when they're tired of shopping. Stacey keeps using it as a proper noun.
Ethan is reading Of Mice and Men.
Kristy says Abby loves camp, and then proceeds to say that Abby spends most of her time complaining about her allergies and the bugs. But there's a lot of competition, which she loves. And for some unknown reason, she likes camp food. Has anyone had Abby tested for brain damage?
More spelling: Finaly, wouldnt, waht, alot, arent, realy, theres, migt, meditat, brout, meditatting, Ill (I'll), certin, beleve, spoilled, bordom. She uses your for you're
Claudia's book for the summer: A Wrinkle in Time and Little Women.
I'm trying to keep a time table for this. Kristy's first entry is dated June 25, while MA's first, the second chapter*, is more specific: Sunday, June 27. (In 1999, when this book was written, June 27 was actually a Sunday.) Some of the entries are just dated "Monday", but then the actual date is confirmed an entry or two later, by someone else. Following the rest of the chapters up to this Claudia chapter...Claudia leaves for her trip on Satruday (I have not been looking at dates until this point, so I didn't notice that), which must be July 3. She left the day before, while Abby and Kristy leave for camp on July 3. Claudia writes to Stacey on July 9, when she lets her know she's still eating lobster every day. Claud has her priorities straight.
*The chapters are not numbered, which is driving me INSANE.
Humorously, Claud and Stacey are writing each other letters too close together. This happened to a friend and's pretty realistic, too. They're both bored, so the letters they're sending are so close in time that they're asking questions the other has already answered.
Heh. I love this. Ethan's 'older' friend's parents were out of town, so he threw a party. Yep, Stacey went to a raging kegger and got drunk and puked on Ethan's shoes. Just kidding of course; this isn't the California Diaries. The party was 10 kids drinking coffee and reciting poetry.
Kristy keeps talking about how much she likes the two of them are arguing and one upping each other.
Stacey's dad actually faxes her a memo. This is funny to me on so many different levels. He requests a meeting with her, and when he shows up fifteen minutes late, she points out that she was on time, and then asks if she should take notes.
Claudia spelling is very hard to keep up with this time, so I'm just trying to find new ones I haven't already noticed. Limelite, he', fornt (front), desided, iland, broshure, imagin, hapen, carful, slipery, falen, belowe, describ, neddles, misterious, streek, disapear, crewel (cruel). Funniest part, though? Ethan's friend who had the party was Tomas, and Claudia tells Stacey that she thinks she (Stacey) spelled that wrong.
Mary Anne's grandma Baker travels with more luggage than Stacey. Obviously we find out that this is stuff mostly for MA--memories of her mother to replace the ones that were lost--but it doesn't bode well for the itsy bitsy rental house the Spiers are living in.
The title quote is Kristy's take on Logan. She then says, "I don't want to be really pushy, but I am..." and gives MA advice.
Okay, we all knew it was coming, but Claudia didn't spell Stacey's name wrong until page 80, almost halfway through the book. She also uses whanted, bord and lonly.
Kristy sums up the BSC in one, half-page long paragraph, but didn't even mention a single ridiculous large group activity. Hearing all the life changes put down in one place makes it even more ludicrous that the past nearly-two hundred books occurred within two school years. I always use Dawn as an example: How could her parents get divorced, both get remarried and her father have a baby during this time frame?
Kristy's been taking Claudia lessons. When Jessi confirms that she is dropping out of the BSC, Kristy attempts to alleviate her eating some candy.
Interestingly, when the girls write letters, they only send them to their besties. Wouldn't Claudia, who's bored witless at this point, send a letter to Mary Anne or Kristy? I mean, I guess Stacey and MA could be talking on the phone on occasion, since they're not what in Quinn Morgendorffer would call 'uncivilization,' but no mention is made of it.
HAHA! Stacey's dad and Samantha have decided to live in sin. It's so...un-BSC-like.
Janine snuck her laptop into her luggage with her. It's not stated as such, but Claudia basically blackmails her sister: Let me borrow your computer or I'll tell mom and dad. Actually, Janine thinks Claudia will blackmail her, so she offers in advance of the blackmail. (BTW, their email handles are NYCGirl and CKishi. Either Stacey has been with her provider since pretty much the dawn of time, or her mom signed up with a small provider. I'm imagining her address is
More spelling: surprize, surprized, papperback, upstares, stamering, freinds, pertending. Brakes for breaks.
Kristy talking about a boy CIT: 'He was a very moist person.'
Shannon sighting! She, Mal and Jessi show up at MA's house to give her a scrapbook that she can use to start rebuilding her memories, whether in Stoneybrook or Philadelphia. But I feel like Shannon should be off at camp or something.
Lobster update: Claudia has eaten lobster now for 15 days straight. She's beaten my clam eating record, and I once had steamahhhhhhhs for an appetizer, clam chowder for my soup, and clam pasta for my meal....
Spelling: improtent, frige, develed, thermis (Thermos), forgoten, identafy, discribe, leter, Ethen, medcine cabinat, fairy, farry (both for ferry...), discoverd, exibit, ilustraited, studeos, speled, wonderfull.
I love that the authors set this whole thing up in this book that travels all through the FF series and is completely, utterly believable. Kristy gets so upset with Abby for dropping out of the club that she completely stops talking to her, despite saying how much she enjoyed her company in her last post. She keeps discussing how horrible it is that everyone wants to leave the club and what will become of it? And (total spoiler alert), in the final book, every member of the club says that they can't picture it continuing on into high school...except Kristy.
Mary Anne actually starts a journal entry "Good evening, diary." It's like the opposite of Kristy's journal, with the lack of unnecessary words.
Stacey's (surface) logic why Samantha can't move in with her father: not enough room in the medicine cabinet and closets. Even Claudia knows that isn't the whole story.
Claudia catches her mother reading a Harlequin Romance novel. I really think that Mrs. K can't say a whole lot about Claud's Nancy Drew habit after that.
More spelling: incredable, harlaquinn, cushin, alredy, remerber, hangars, cuaght, especialy, exitement, discovary, lattest, prepare, defyed, nervouse, expete, tallented, famouse, begining, distante, pated (patted), expresing herslef, matered, demonstratting, technikes, experament, beginers, frist, middel, mathodical, easles, purpal, realistacaly, experiance. She spelled Janine--which she wrote a lot--as Janin once. Oh and she wanted to pant like Salvador Dolly, so there's that.
When Grandma makes the presentation of Alma's things to Richard and Mary Anne, she makes sure to gather the whole family together. It had to be at least a little weird for her to meet Sharon--the new wife of her daughter's husband--but she's as much a part of the presentation as everyone else.
I just love when Claudia calls Stacey on her bullshit about why Samantha can't come in. All Stacey needs to do is say, "I don't feel comfortable with the idea of Samantha moving in. I don't feel like I know her well enough, and I need more time to get used to your relationship." But she's thirteen and may not even realize that's part of the problem.
Yet more Claudia. (If you haven't noticed, I'm combining several of these together. Some of her letters/emails are only a page or so long.) Gues, fell for feel, threw for through, arond, charcoles, rember, natur, recorde, nose for noise, allmost, afew, especally, encyclapodia, leve, evry, singel. She also writes "I'm am" at one point.
I love how, through all the books, one thing about Stacey is very consistent: She's very much her father's daughter. Stacey comes home late one time, and Ethan is two years older than she is. Her father's decision based upon just those two pieces of information: he's too old for Stacey and a bad influence. He makes a choice without getting to know Ethan at all. Later, when he wants to move Samantha in, Stacey...jumps straight to the decision that it's a bad idea, without thinking it over. During her fourteen allowed hours with Ethan, she tells him about the Samantha situation, and he tells her she's being ridiculous and has no valid reason to feel the way she feels. (Other than being a moody teenager). Dad's really surprised at how mature and sensible Ethan is. That's when he decides everyone needs to get to know each other better. (Duhhhhh.)
After Claudia catches her father watching the neighbor's television, she boasts that she's the only one who hasn't broken the rules. Except for, you know, emailing Stacey on Janine's computer. And reading a Nancy Drew behind a library book. And probably a few other things here and there....
I think it's funny that Marcia is Abby and Kristy's least favorite camper. Back when I was a CIT, there was a woman named Marcia (pronounced the Brady way, not mar-see-a) who would come and visit the camp every couple of weeks, gripe about something, and then leave...expecting us all to change everything.
You know Mary Anne's excited about moving into the Goldman's house because she writes an all-caps headline about it.
Two things I thought as the book ended. I really thought Stacey and Ethan were going to break up, so I guess that's just good foreshadowing, and more subtle than the Mary Anne-Logan break up that's completely written on the wall at this point. Second, the BSC members agree to step back, meet less often and sit less often. I'm not sure how that works--do they tell certain clients to find new sitters, or just have to turn down jobs when they're over booked?--but I know I like that there's less sitting, more realism in these final books.
I know you were worried, so not only does Claudia never break her lobster streak, but she also sends Stacey a lobstar [sic] postcard near the end of the book. This is my final treat to you. It's been playing in my head all through this book:

Next: FF #1

“It might as well be the North Pole.” BSC #131: The Fire at Mary Anne’s House (1999)

Well, the title and cover are kind of spoilers, aren’t they?

I’m sure no one is surprised to find out that Mary Anne’s house burns to the ground in this book. It comes at a time of change for the Spiers anyway. Richard was just offered a job in Philadelphia, and Sharon wants to change careers. They figure they’ll move to Philly and get a fresh start. But Mary Anne, who takes the fire very stoically, isn’t up for the move. In the end, it’s actually still up in the air.
Meanwhile, the BSC had planned to enter a ‘sitter of the year’ contest in some magazine. When the fire happens, they forget all about it, so their clients work together and mail the entry in for them. 
Interesting Tidbits
I can’t imagine that Richard allows Logan into Mary Anne’s bedroom, which is probably for the best. After all, MA reveals she has a collage of Cam Geary pictures. I was/still am more of a ‘collage of random thoughts/affirmations/pictures’ kind of girl, but I can’t imagine Logan would be too happy to find out just how many pictures of ol’ Cam MA has…
OOH! Sharon-itis in the very first chapter! Mary Anne has found Sharon’s socks in the linen closet, the crisper in the fridge, and the china cabinet.
It bothers me that the ghostwriters like to make the same jokes over and over again. In this case, it’s the old “I-don’t-know-one-sport-from-another” line where Mary Anne says something about winning the World Series after Kristy is playing waste-basket basketball.
In this book, the BSC is out of school for the summer, yet Mallory isn’t back from Massachusetts. I haven’t read that one yet, but I know one of the FF books has the opposite be true: Mal comes home before everyone else is out of school, and is truly bored.
Mary Anne is rereading the club notebook and a lot of BSC clip show stuff comes by, with references to old plots. I’m really tempted to try to figure out what book each of these comes from and pull the book out and see if it’s just copy/paste, or if these notebook entries are all new. (Also, some of them are so generic, like Dawn writing about sitting for Jackie R, that I could never figure out where they came from…)
Plots I actually can narrow down a book for: #100, M#4, #9, #22, #24, M#36.
I remember feeling like this growing up (and sometimes even now). Charlotte: “What does testimonial mean again? I think I know, but not really.”
The chapter with the fire starts off very reflective, asking the kinds of questions people ask after a life-changing event: If I’d known, would I have done anything differently? It’s very deep, and not normal for the BSC members….
I think this is the first time Sharon’s job has been filled out in any way. She currently works for an accountant, and she hates her job.
Sharon-itis: keys in the silverware drawer
Mary Anne’s idea of a good morning? Browsing the LL Bean catalogue. Whoa, there, MA. Stop being so wild and crazy!
Logan and Mary Anne have a picnic in the barn. Some part of me wants to point out that you can do the exact same things in the barn that you can in the house. It would just be dirtier. Oh, and they take turns jumping from the hay loft, which MA says she hasn’t done in years. Umm…she met Dawn halfway through seventh grade and just finished eighth grade. How is that ‘years?’ (I mean, I know she met Dawn in like, 1987, but seriously.)
MA is rereading My Side of the Mountain.
The whole thing with MA’s house actually burning down is sad, and I don’t have many comments. Just…it’s very lucky that Tigger didn’t get scared and claw his way out of Mary Anne’s arms. That would have been very realistic, and he probably wouldn’t have made it out of the house safely. Also, once again, someone has no idea what ‘stop drop and roll’ means. Richard tells MA to ‘drop and roll’ to stay under the smoke. But stop drop and roll is what you do when you’re on fire, not how to get under smoke.
People keep hugging MA and all I could think is…where’s Tigger? If my neighbor’s house went up in flames and I saw them struggling to hold their pet, I’d offer my bathroom to lock it up in temporarily, but no one mentions him. It’s almost as if MA just put him down and forgot about him in her shock. (Later she mentions holding him for quite a while, and that he stayed near her when she finally put him down. And after the fire is out, Mrs. Brewer takes him to her house to keep him safe.)
Most of the neighbors just stand there and watch the fire, but some of them are pretty awesome. Stacey is the BSC member who lives closest to MA. MA refuses to leave the fire, wanting to see what happens, so Stacey brings her a coat and a backpack with a change of clothes, and make sandwiches for the Spiers and the firefighters. Mrs. Prezzioso actually lends the Spiers her cell phone to make phone calls, telling them to hang on to it as long as they need to. Someone brought whatever shoes they could find that would fit the family, too.
Umm. Richard keeps a notepad in his car, and he and Sharon note that it’s a good thing they didn’t park too close to the house. All I can think is, do they leave their cars unlocked? How are they going to drive those cars? I can’t imagine Richard keeps a set of keys in his pajama pockets.
I’ve never understood this one. The Spiers are homeless. They’ve literally lost almost everything, and they don’t even know where they’re spending that night. And Dawn’s first response is to…get on a plane and fly out so that she can be homeless too? Even dumber…Dawn’s apparently old enough and mature enough to go on this trip, but Jeff’s not.
I wanted to cry reading the part of the book where the Spiers walk through the house for the first time after it burns down. It was the way they kept finding small things that were now gone. It wasn’t just all of Sharon’s pictures of Jeff and Dawn, which is a huge loss, but little things like the tin can covered in macaroni that MA made for Richard in kindergarten and the large collection of spices Sharon had amassed in the kitchen.
You know Byron’s upset when Jessi and Abby are sitting, because he’s not eating his breakfast. And then there’s Vanessa, who’s all worried about the ‘tragedy of Mary Anne’s life.’
Kristy tries to treat Mary Anne the way she would treat someone if their house burns down, but MA tells her to stop. She says, “you’re scaring me,” because Kristy's not being herself.
How big is Kristy’s house, exactly? I know that question has come up before. But each member of the family (except Watson and Elizabeth) have their own room, which makes nine bedrooms. And there’s still room for Sharon and Richard to have a room with its own private bathroom, and MA and Dawn to share yet another room. The description of the room MA is in (pink curtains and striped wall paper) does make me think that maybe they temporarily moved Karen and Emily in together, but not necessarily.
This was funny in the midst of all the sorrow. The Brewer-Thomas house is very crowded and noisy, and the Spier-Schafer contingent just aren’t used to it. They tried to have a quiet breakfast in the sunroom, but just kept being interrupted. The next day, when they went to go back in, Karen announced that Emily Jr. (her pet rat) was running around in there for her weekly fitness time. With nowhere else to go, they end up in the kids’ playhouse in the backyard, sitting in child sized chairs around a tiny table.
Claudia spelling! And…Kristy spelling? Claudia: thouhgt, definately, excellant, univers, softee. Kristy, meanwhile, spells speechless as speechles.
Interesting mistake: there’s a reference to the Pike Plague, only it’s referred to as the time they all had the chicken pox. Only…they didn’t all have the chicken pox. Mal did, and I think Margo and Claire did too. Nicky and Vanessa injured themselves in other ways (I remember Vanessa sprained her ankle falling off her bike), and the triplets had some respiratory thing (like bronchitis.) Is it really sad that I remember all that? It’s always been one of my favorite plots, though.
The title quote is Kristy’s reaction to learning that the Spiers might move to Philly.
As the book goes on and Mary Anne still isn’t crying, all I can think is that maybe she’s got posttraumatic stress disorder. But it’s only been a couple of days, so she could still be in denial. And then the nightmares start… I know everyone in the book—Kristy, Logan, Dawn—is worried about her lack of emotion, but once again, it’s completely normal! It’s not regular Mary Anne, but as I read, it’s obvious that Mary Anne can never go back to who she used to be.
I actually like that the book ends on a cliffhanger. The note from AMM at the end specifies that the series is ending and the FF series starting soon, so it’s not like The Face on the Milk Carton where so many preteen girls wanted to strangle Caroline Cooney for several years until she released the sequel. Plus, it’s so much more realistic: not much gets wrapped up in fifteen neat chapters in the real world.
Mary Anne: red plaid bathrobe; pjs covered in kittens; jeans and a sweatshirt
Sharon: holey green shirt, gray boxers
Richard: red plaid pajamas (do they match MA’s bathrobe?!)
Next: Everything Changes

“You’re in the Babysitters Club with Darth Vader.” BSC #130: Stacey’s Movie (1999)

The latest (and, probably, last) short takes class is happening. Stacey is excited for her class, which is on film making. She’s placed in a group with Pete, Emily and Erica, and they decide to make a documentary on middle school students. In the course of their interviews, they speak with various BSC members. When Mary Anne is interviewed, she makes some comments that she wishes she hadn’t said. Stacey’s sympathetic, but it’s not until she says some things she regrets during her own interview that she really pushes to get MA's comments revoked. In the end, both Mary Anne and Stacey are allowed to record a second interview, explaining what they said the first time. And all is well.
In the B plot, Kristy is stepping on Alan’s toes by not letting him direct their movie. She makes several other people—Jackie R, Mary Anne, and Abby, to name a few—annoyed with her antics as well.
Interesting Tidbits
Is that Pete on the cover? He looks even more excited than Stacey does.

Attack of the Giant Idiot: The Alan Gray Story. Is it a comedy? Sci-fi? Horror? You decide.
Did it ever occur to anyone else that Stacey actually helps Claudia in some ways? For example, in this book, Claudia goes downstairs to get some carrot sticks for Stacey to eat during the meeting. Since Claud’s hiding the junk food in her room, Mrs. Kishi probably thinks the whole BSC is eating the carrots…meaning that she thinks Claudia’s eating them, too.
Mary Anne is taking an Egyptology class, which leads to Abby making an Egypt pun that is so bad, even I don’t want to repeat it.
The filmmaking teacher, who is a documentarian in her real life, asks the groups to assign the roles of cinematographer, director, producer and screenwriter. Then, when everyone agrees, she shuffles the roles, to take people out of their comfort zone. For the record, Emily wanted to be screenwriter but ends up producing; Pete wanted to produce but winds up cinematographer, Erica wanted to be cinematographer by winds up directing. Stacey, who wanted to direct, is the screenwriter.
Kristy’s group (which includes Anna, Logan and Alan) is making a Kids Say/Do the Darnedest Things type movie, and they start by filming the Rodowskys while Mary Anne is sitting. Kristy keeps trying to get Jackie to do something entertaining, but Jackie tells MA that she’s making fun of him. It’s actually quite sad. Even after he specifically says he doesn’t want to be in the movie, Kristy keeps filming him anyway.
We learn all kinds of fun things during assorted interviews, which Stacey and Emily take turns doing:

  • Pete says that he hates the feeling of ‘being stuck’. He comments on not being allowed to drive, despite knowing how, and not being able to get a real job (despite the fact that Logan has worked as a busboy for quite a while now…) It made me chuckle, because Mallory is always saying how she thinks that once she turns thirteen, her life will be perfect. And here are the thirteen year olds, all wishing they were sixteen. You know that once they’re sixteen, they’ll want to be eighteen…or twenty-one….
  • Abby comments on how overbooked her mother is, and how she doesn’t want to be like her. But then Emily points out that Abby said she’s always tired, and says maybe she too is overbooked. I didn’t really notice this the first time I read the book. But think about it now: it’s only two books from now that Abby drops out of the BSC to focus on soccer. Think that this interview had something to do with that?
  • Jessi makes it very plain that, although she likes her friends in the BSC, she’s more at ease with her friends from Dance NY. It’s not just a race thing (although Stacey gets stuck on that), but also because they have a lot more in common besides babysitting. And as I said during that book, Jessi was almost a different person in front of those friends, a ham and a leader. She makes a comment about the BSC members—now that Mal is gone—all being older than she is, and that making it difficult. At first I called bull on that, but then I remembered way back in book #75 when Jessi was the same way during Sixth Grade Follies.
  • Cokie suggests that Stacey has what it takes to hang out with her and her friends, but that the BSC is just as snobby as they consider Cokie’s group to be. YES! That’s what BSC fans have been saying for YEARS! She follows it up by saying that even geeks hang out with other geeks because they consider them superior to others. It’s very true, in a middle school way of thinking. By the time kids finish high school, a lot of those clique lines have blurred, because someone can be a cheerleader and class valedictorian, or be a jock and a stoner. Labels like that become less important than having good friends.
  • Mary Anne blurts out that she’s angry at her mother for dying. The comment is doubly harsh, because she says she’s angry with her mother, and when Stacey says, “Sharon?”, MA basically says, “No, my real mother!” Later, she explains that she and Sharon had gotten into a fight right before school that day, explaining everything. Honestly, I’d say her comment is completely, utterly normal. Anger at a dead parent? Normal. Not always considering a stepparent to be a parent? Normal. But at the same time, I understand Mary Anne not wanting her interview to air as is, because those emotions aren’t how she normally feels.
  • Alan says the title quote at the start of his interview, and yes, he’s referring to Kristy. But then he gets deadly serious and says he doesn’t always want to be the class clown, but he feels locked into the role. Even when he tries to be not a goofball, no one takes him seriously. He says he ruined the t-shirt Claudia was going to decorate because he wanted to talk to her and she just ignored him. Not only do I bet a lot of class clowns feel that way, but this sets up the whole Alan/Claudia pairing from the FF series.

Maybe it’s a bad idea to allow Kristy to work on her film during her own sitting jobs, especially with the Pike family. She’s encouraging the kids to behave badly in the process of performing, without thinking of their safety. Abby becomes (rightfully) pissed at her after she has to rescue Claire from a concussion and the four Pike boys nearly destroy the whole living room.
Alan, meanwhile, is annoyed because he’s the director of the movie, and Kristy—the cinematographer—keeps taking over his role, deciding what to film, and telling the kids not to listen to Alan. Logan even spoke up on Alan’s side. After Alan’s interview with Stacey, she encourages Kristy to actually give him a chance. She does…and discovers that Alan’s got more talent than she expected.
In the end, Stacey films Mary Anne talking about how words are imprecise and we don’t always express ourselves clearly, but once something’s on film (or, Teeki adds, been heard by others) we can’t take it back.
Over all, this was actually pretty awesome as far as BSC books go. Lots of character development, and in some cases, just reaffirmation of what we already knew. Which is really nice, too.
Claudia: tie-dyed t-shirt, overall shorts with a painted rain forest scene
Next: #131